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The New York Times gives Karan Johar a thumbs up for bringing India 'out of the closet' 

Praising the director's courage and integrity in pushing the boundaries of conversations on gay rights, the New York Times article offered a glowing tribute to Johar. 

Shriram Iyengar

The release of his autobiography An Unsuitable Boy has earned Karan Johar new fans. The clear, unapologetic stance of the director on personal issues and his struggle through life has been praised by people within and outside the film industry. Now, the New York Times has joined the crowd to praise the director for letting 'India out of the closet' in a recent article. 

In an article written by Aatish Taseer, the director has been praised for pushing the boundaries of the conversation on sexuality and gender perspectives in India. It says, "An ocean of innuendo has always surrounded Mr. Johar’s sexuality. He has done more than anybody to introduce the idea of homosexuality into the Indian home.' 

Describing Johar as a 'byword for family entertainment, the article goes on to describe the contradicting nature of the director's struggle with his identity and the nature of the conservative society in India. It reads: 'It is impossible not to see Mr. Johar against the background of the society in which he lives. India right now is in the grip of a strange schizophrenia when it comes to gay freedom...But the legal recognition of same-sex love is stuck firmly in 19th-century Britain. In 2013, the same year Mr. Johar’s gay kiss hit movie screens across India, the Supreme Court reinstated Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which places homosexuality, alongside bestiality, as “against the order of nature.' 

It is in view of this stringent conservatism that the article heaps praise on the director by saying, "But Mr. Johar knows that he is far more subversive than his critics admit. He has introduced the idea of homosexuality by stealth into the Indian home. He knows the limits of his “family” audience, but he works vigorously within them.' 

The writer goes to highlight films like Dostana (2008), Kapoor & Sons (2016) among films where Johar subliminally stood up for gay rights. It does finish with the description of Johar as 'Mr. Johar may not have uttered the three magic words, but his life and his work are a portrait in courage. Watching him play the host that night, I couldn’t help thinking that, for all his contradictions, he is a man who has done more than anyone to make India safe for love. One wants him not merely to be brave, but happy — and, needless to say, gay.' 

As a director who has constantly sought to push the envelope and faced the music that came with it, Johar does deserve some of the praise that is coming his way. It is no surprise that he is now being recognised as a director of films that have more than 'popcorn, bubble gum and frivolity' in them.